5.4. Partnerships: Community organisations and civic society
Building effective relationships between schools and the community at large can have an important effect on the quality of learning. These relationships may also change the community and structural factors that promote educational inequality. Libraries, youth and sports clubs, local NGOs and other community organisations which gather learners and their families around a wide range of recreational activities and support access to learning opportunities and wider services, can develop partnerships to reinforce the bonds between schools, families and learners. This may be particularly helpful for parents and families from disadvantaged backgrounds or for those parents who have had negative experiences of school in the past.
These types of partnerships require a more holistic understanding of how schools, families, communities and civic society can work together to improve life outcomes for young people, nurture their self-esteem and their confidence. It also requires an improved understanding of how schools can impact on the wider community to influence the family and social contexts within which children and young people learn.
Schools that have benefited from investment in community libraries, sports centres and other shared facilities may have the capacity to promote extended-hours access to their premises for members of the wider community. Opening up school facilities outside of school hours for outreach and extra-curricular activities can be highly advantageous. It encourages community empowerment and helps to bridge the gap between schools and parents, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the school system.
Research shows that those schools which are most effective in building strong relationships with their local communities have well-developed community engagement strategies with clear aims, which can be sustained over time, and which recognise community assets. For example, schools may deliberately plan out-of-school activities to create pathways to employment for adults, or to promote healthy lifestyles, and actively support community members’ participation.
Find out more:
Department for Education, United Kingdom, Extended Schools and Services: Research into the impact of a range of extra-curricular services and activities for children, young people and the wider community, online platform.
Flint, N., Schools, communities and social capital: Building blocks in the 'Big Society’, National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, 2012.
Ice, M.,Thapa, A., Cohen, J., ‘Recognizing Community Voice and a Youth-led School-Community Partnership in the School Climate Improvement Process’, School Community Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2015, pp. 9-28.